Monday, March 26, 2001

Hopple Street widening begins

By Tom O'Neill
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        It is a stretch of Cincinnati road just three-tenths of a mile long, home to headaches, honking horns and — starting this week — hope.

        This is Hopple Street in Camp Washington, between Interstate 75 and Meeker Street, just east of the bridge that spans Mill Creek.

        The daily drill: cars squeezing between the endless procession of industrial trucking. There's a theater costume shop, a steel-treatment plant, two gas stations and two chili parlors. Neighbors walk sidewalks that are about to be moved back 20 feet.

        Add to this colorful mix a couple of dozen orange barrels.

        This week, reconstruction begins that will increase lanes to seven from five when it is completed Nov. 15. Traffic is now reduced to two lanes in each direction.

        The Ohio Department of Transportation project will cost $2.28 million.

        “You see that?” Steve Werning, 47, said, pointing to a near-collision of a truck and car as he waited last week for the No.16 bus at the corner of Hopple and Colerain Avenue. “I see so many mirrors in the gutter.”

        Mirrors are sheared off vehicles trying to negotiate the tight corners and congested traffic on this short stretch of Hopple.

        When ODOT designed the Hopple Street widening in 1996, the average daily traffic count was 26,273 vehicles east of Meeker. But closer to I-75, east of Colerain Avenue, it was 33,376 vehicles, ODOT spokeswoman Kim Patton said.

        The new configuration will have left- and right-turn lanes, wider lanes, and improve a sharp curve west of Colerain Avenue.

        Between Meeker and Colerain, Hopple will be six lanes. From I-75 to Colerain, Hopple will be seven, owing to the

        higher traffic count.

        Mr. Werning, a lifelong Price Hill resident, works nearby, transporting railroad crews between job sites. He takes the bus to work.

        As he speaks, another truck attempts the sharp turn on Jessamine Street, fails and backs up. The aroma of diesel and chili fill the late-morning air pockmarked with honking horns, but from the driver of the car behind the truck, there is only silence and a blank stare.

        “People need to be patient around here, but they're not,” Mr. Werning said, holding temporary court. “One blows his horn, another calls another a name. And it just goes from there.”

        Behind his bus-stop bench, the crew at Camp Washington Chili gears up for another lunch crowd clamoring for the famous chili “I grew up on,” Mr. Werning said.

        The parlor has been a local institution since 1940, but was forced by the city to relocate to facilitate the lane-widening on Hopple.

        Camp Washington Chili eventu ally landed on adjacent property 20 feet away, then built a new parlor.

        “It's a hassle,” Maria Papakirk, vice president and daughter of owner John Johnson, said of traffic as she took a brief break behind the counter. “And it's going to get worse before it gets better. But it's needed. There's a lot of trucks, but a lot of pedestrians, too. We get a lot of people from the neighborhood walking in.”

        The chili must be special, but many people around here now are ordering the orange barrels — to go.


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